With Amir Hussain, Pim Valkenberg, and Rabbi Reuven Firestone

Race, Faith & Violence photo

Amir Hussain, Pim Valkenberg and Reuven Firestone will spend a semester as scholars in residence as part of a research program sponsored jointly by the Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies at USC and the USC Caruso Catholic Center.

What in the world is going on these days? The images, the headlines, the news reports and political stump speeches would have us believe the worst about one another. But how accurate is the modern portrayal of Islam as a supporter of violent jihad? Do aggressive Zionist settlers in the West Bank represent all Jewish perspectives? What about the massacres supported by some priests and nuns in Rawanda? What responsibility does the Catholic Church bear responsibility?

Exploring these actions, unravelling modern day assumptions and misunderstandings, or confronting aspects of Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions that don’t correspond to the values we hold most dear won’t occur in the context of a single conversation, a single essay or article or speech. What is required is a deep, extended, and fearless examination and a genuine desire to understand – ourselves and others.

That’s why the USC Caruso Catholic Center and the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC are bringing together three of the finest theological and historical minds working today to lead the USC community and beyond in a semester-long exploration of the impact of religions on world events, and the historic and contemporary theologies that underpin the three western religions.

Three scholars – Rabbi Rueven Firestone, Pim Valkenberg, and Amir Hussain–will spend the Fall 2016 semester at USC engaging students, artists, colleagues, writers, politicians and the larger community in a lively, thoughtful and thought-provoking series of conversations and presentations on the subjects of “Race, Faith & Violence” in the world today.

Amir Hussain, a Canadian Muslim, is professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, where he teaches courses on Islam and world religions. An expert in the subject of contemporary Muslim societies in North America, Amir is the author or editor of five books and well as over 50 scholarly articles and book chapters and from 2011 to 2015, served as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. He is currently finishing a book on how American Muslims have woven themselves into the fabric of American life, titled Islam and the Building of America. His deep commitment to interfaith work (especially among Jews, Christians, and Muslims) is evident in his teaching and his scholarly work, and one of the most important reasons we invited him to take part in the first “scholars in residence” program.

Pim (Wilhelmus G.B.M.) Valkenberg was born in the Netherlands where he studied both theology and religious studies. His field of specialization is Christian – Muslim dialogue in the context of Abrahamic partnership, both in the present and in the (Medieval) period. He is also interested in Christology, Hermeneutics, comparative theology, mysticism, and the study of the Qur’an. Pim has taught at the (then) Catholic University of Nijmegen, Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and is currently professor of Religion and Culture in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Among his edited and authored books in the field of inter religious dialogue are: The Polemical Dialogue (1997), Christology and Dialogue (1997, Dutch), God and Violence (2002, Dutch), In the Footsteps of Abraham (2004, Dutch), and Sharing Lights on the Way to God: Muslim-Christian Dialogue and Theology in the Context of Abrahamic Partnership (Brill/Rodopi, 2006). Pim also participated in the “Learned Ignorance” project of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies.

Rabbi Reuven Firestone grew up in Northern California and was educated at Antioch College, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Hebrew Union College where he received his M.A. in Hebrew literature in 1980 and Rabbinic Ordination in 1982, and New York University where he received his Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic studies in 1988. He serves as is the Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and on the faculty of the School of Religion and the Middle East Studies Center at USC. Firestone’s books include An Introduction to Islam for Jews, Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Muslims in Dialogue: A Practical Handbook, with Leonard Swidler and Khalid Duran, and Who are the Real Chosen People: The Meaning of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He also co-edited, with Professors James Heft S.M. and Omid Safi, Learned Ignorance: An Investigation into Humility in Interreligious Dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews. Professor Firestone has served as vice president of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) and the president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA).

He has lived with his family in Israel, Egypt and Germany, and has initiated and been involved in numerous projectswhich bring together Jews and Christians and Muslims, Jews and Arabs, and Israelis and Palestinians.